“The Runaway Princesses,” Episode 2: Escape

Shamsa’s effort to claim asylum in Britain was thwarted, and she was taken back to Dubai, where she was drugged and imprisoned. Latifa was just a teen-ager, but she was desperate to help Shamsa, who had been a mother figure to her. Latifa decided that her only option was to escape to another country and bring attention to the sisters’ plight. But she’d never been outside alone, and she had no idea how to cross the border into Oman. She was caught and brutally punished. For years afterward, she pretended that her spirit was broken. (Sheikh Mohammed has denied mistreating his daughters.)

But, all the while, she was planning a second escape, and this time she tried to think through every detail. She found conspirators to help her buy equipment, and arranged for a dinghy and Jet Skis that would take her to a yacht waiting in international waters. And she made a video to be released by her friends if something went wrong. She hoped that, if the world knew her story, it would be harder for her father to make her disappear, like her sister—or to kill her.

“The Runaway Princesses” is a four-episode narrative series. For the best listening experience, download the New Yorker app for iOS or Android.

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